Monday, 8 August 2016

A visit to Galleria Spada

Profitting of the free access to a good number of museums in Rome on the first Sunday of the month, yesterday I took the chance to pay a visit to the Galleria Spada, one of the many hidden treasures of Rome.

The building is a little jewel itself.
Built by Cardinal Girolamo Capodiferro around 1548, the facade is decorated with the statues of famous Roman personalities, countered in the inner courtyard by Pagan deities, a tribute to the love for antiquity and the Roman ancestry of the Cardinal.
Later on the building was purchased by Cardinal Bernardino Spada, who turned it into his Roman residence and decorated it further promoting his love for alternative spacial solutions, among which the famous Prospettiva is included.

The visit includes the gallery, composed by the collection of Bernardino and his family, and a look at the perspective gallery of Borromini, in the courtyard; the gallery is composed by four halls, that constituted the various offices of the Cardinal, including his "winter residence".

The First Hall was a series of little rooms that formed the place that hosted the quarters of Girolamo during Winter; on 1653 Bernardino changed this setting, turning the area into a main hall for official meetings.
It's nicknamed "The Hall of Popes" because originally it hosted a series of texts pertaining the lives of Popes, applied on the ceiling. The actual decoration is dated 1777.
In this room you can find a good amount of portraits dedicated to Bernardino and a huge painting of Cardinal Fabrizio Spada, his nephew, who kept increasing the family collection.

--I was probably the only one who got caught by the "Still Natures with Genies" by Loth Onofrio... A Neapolitan artist from the XVIII century, his style reminded me of some Symbolist painters that will appear a century later...

The Second Hall was nicknamed "The Flemish Hall", as it was decorated by a precious boiserie designed by Bernini and created by Andrea Battaglini. It was conceived as a study and it wasn't supposed to host paintings but only the current frieze over the ebony panels.
The decoration (tempera on canvas) is the job of Perin del Vaga, and it's actually the project for a tapestry that was supposed to be placed under the frescoes of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.

Besides the breath-taking frieze and the moving "Way to Calvary" by Marco Palmezzano, my attention was caught by this tiny reproduction of a work by Titian-- It's oil on mirror, and I found it quite amazing.

The Third Hall is definitely the most amusing.
Nicknamed "The Gallery of the Cardinal" it hosted the collection of Bernardino and his brother Virgilio first and Fabrizio then. It was originally a landing; Fabrizio closed the wall and added the windows in place of the original doors, turning it into a closed space.


It contains a huge amount of beautiful paintings and pieces (my favourite was the "sketch" for the frescoes in Il Gesù by Baciccia!). The most curious item, in my opinion, was a puny statue representing "The Sleep". Actually a copy of the piece by Algardi of Galleria Borghese, I was entertained by the mix of materials: the statue is made of marble, but the cradle is wooden!
This hall contains also a good number of paintings dedicated to Cleopatra... The fun note is that she's usually represented as a very Western woman with blonde hair!

The Fourth Hall was made by closing another balcony, turning it into another study; here where preserved the most precious pieces; now it's dedicated to the Caravagesques.

My attention was caught by the pieces of Artemisia Gentileschi, of course, but a special mention goes for "Saint Constance with Saints John and Paul" by Antiveduto della Grammatica, a special loan from the Pinacoteca of Brera.

Once back at the entrance, I went through a side door into the tiny courtyard featuring the famous Prospettiva!


I was really amazed! This forced perspective is a masterpiece among optical tricks.
Borromini asked for the help of the Augustinian father Giovanni Maria da Bitonto, who took care of the mathematical part of the project.
It was later commented by a short poem of Cardinal Bernardino Spada, too, that gave a moral value to the work, explaining how things that we deem "big" and important in life are actually quite insignificant...

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